Bloggers’ code?

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Tim O’Reilly’s draft Blogging Code of Conduct may be causing a bigger stir online than the caustic and misogynistic comments that sparked it. The blogosphere, critics say, "don’t need no stinking badges."

Though it sometimes seems that way. Mr O’Reilly’s proposed code followed last month’s well-publicised (and horrible) death threats against Kathy Sierra, publisher of the popular Creating Passionate Users blog. Calls for higher standards and plain old civility and justice resounded after Ms Sierra responded to the threats with an impassioned post describing her ordeal.

Unfortunately for all of those who yearn for more civility in our public discourse, any attempt to enforce higher standards – through a blogger "code of conduct" or otherwise – is almost certainly bound to fail.

That courteous people should not tolerate rude, libelous or threatening blog entries or comments is obvious, and hardly needs to be codified. Trolls who make death threats are bound not to heed such a code anyway.

Blogging’s great innovation was to lower the cost of web-publishing to next to nothing. This upside of this is that, in the blogosphere, anyone with a good idea or insight can put it online and get it noticed. The inescapable downside is that those who wish to threaten, mislead or titillate have the same opportunity.

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